Miami is the most attractive free agent destination

By: Jacob Shindel, Columnist 

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.  

During the offseason before the 2010-2011 NBA season, LeBron James broke the hearts of Cleveland Cavaliers fans, when he announced on a primetime ESPN special program called “The Decision,” that he would be leaving Cleveland to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Miami Heat.

“I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat,” James announced on live television.

Now, a decade later, Miami has once again emerged as one of the top free agent destinations for the league’s biggest stars.

For a little bit, let’s forget about the financial aspect of Miami being a desired destination. Who wouldn’t want to play in Miami? It provides one of the league’s more marketable cities. Despite being the 39th most populated city in the United States, behind other NBA cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Chicago, and a few others. Forbes ranked Miami as the 12th most valuable NBA franchise. These rankings were released in February, when virtually no one expected Miami to make it to the finals. Miami has the glitz and glamor needed to attract big name free agents, but they also have one of the best rosters in the league in terms of the salary cap and trade assets. 

Miami only has five players that will be on their salary cap books for the 2021-2022 season. Out of those five players, three of them have team options, meaning that if Miami doesn’t want them on the team, the players become free agents without a cap penalty. All star Jimmy Butler is the only player with guaranteed money for the Heat in 2022-2023, other than Tyler Herro, a breakout rookie who has a team option for the 2021 and 2022 season. It would be in Miami’s best interest to pick up his option in both years, and it would be a shock if they let him walk away.

Earlier in the postseason, Brian Windhorst reported that it was unlikely breakout center Bam Adebayo would get a max contract this offseason. If Miami decides to wait on an extension, Adebayo will hit restricted free agency next offseason, giving Miami the chance to match any offer for him if they have the cap space. This would be a very wise move. While Adebayo is a very promising young player, Miami should have their sights set on bigger free agents next offseason, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Kawhi Leonard, if he opts out of his deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. If Miami strikes out on the league’s top free agents, they will be able to re-sign Adebayo, assuming he gets a max contract. 

Miami is perhaps in the best spot out of any team in the entire league. They are a young team, they do not have a lot of large contracts that drag out over multiple years, and they have one of the best front offices in the league. Miami has already established themselves as a winning city, and they have that same winning culture that they had with the big three; the trio of James, Bosh and Wade. They made it to four straight NBA Finals, winning two of them from 2011-2014. Their head coach during that span, Erik Spoelstra, is still the head coach today for the team, and after this year’s run at the NBA Finals, it doesn’t seem likely that he will be packing his bags anytime soon. 

The combination of having one of the league’s best masterminds at handling the salary cap, Pat Riley, mixed with a young Miami Heat team that has already shown they can win in big moments, and tossed in a little bit of that Miami culture, the Heat have once again thrown themselves into the spotlight. For at least the next few years, all of the league’s top stars should be sitting down for a meeting with the Heat, and possibly even signing their name on the dotted black line.

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